Alex Rodriguez has an impressively diversified portfolio in both the sports and business worlds and is constantly juggling balls in the air. But talk to anyone about Rodriguez and one of the things that becomes clear is that he loves to study the texture of all 216 stitches while they are in the air. His persistent enthusiasm for baseball is a piece to the overall puzzle that can be overlooked, but hopefully manifests while he's on-air.
The analyst, who is embarking on his fourth season with ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, fielded questions from the media on the eve of Opening Day and was asked about his development.
He likened it to his time as a player, where he became much more comfortable in Years 3 and 4 than he was the first two — as evidenced by a cursory look at his Baseball Reference page. The more he does it, the more comfortable he gets.
"Some people may like your work, some people may love it, some people may not like it," he said. "When you do the national game, the one thing you're not is you're not the common voice that they're used to. One of the greatest guys that I've ever seen in my career — over the last 25 years — has been Joe Buck. I think he's the greatest and he gets a hard time. It's just a business that you're never going to have everybody's thumbs-up."
Rodriguez said that as a player he would go back and study tape to see what he did well and what could be improved, a method he still draws upon in the quest to improve. Along with reaching out to those in the industry who can give constructive feedback.
"Buck has been helpful, obviously Matty [Vasgersian] is a great mentor. He's been in the business a long time. Guys like Kevin Burkhardt and my all-time favorite broadcaster and friend is Tim McCarver. I just thought that he had a great way about him. He was always very honest and objective. And tough. Growing up I was a Mets fan and he was the guy in broadcasting that I grew up as a 9- or 10-year-old listening to with Ralph Kiner and it was just a delight."
With such a full schedule and the demand to produce in so many different areas, I wondered if he still found joy in the preparation process, even when the fruits of that labor didn't make it on the broadcast.
"I actually enjoyed practice more than the game and I think that's probably an anomaly. I've always been a baseball nerd. I love watching games, talking about it. I love challenging the system and in many ways thinking as a contrarian. I do like the setup, I do like revealing stories as we say kind of taking the helmet off the player."
Like his colleague Karl Ravech did earlier this week, Rodriguez recognized the importance of storytelling, which seems front-of-mind for ESPN's baseball talent as the season begins. And an appreciation for the opportunity to set out for that fourth voyage on the network's marquee game.
"This is the second-best thing, is you get to talk baseball to a national audience that loves the game," he said.